Dec 28 2009

Dumfries and Galloway-a whistle-stop tour

Actually no whistles were involved. In fact not many trains were. But from the train through dirty semi opaque double plastic we look at the Lake District-sheep look frozenly resigned or dead, the Lake District Mountains are so soaring and glorious that they seem fake.

Then a car ride from Dumfries. Dumfries with its turrets and troughs, its pinnacles and desolation. Home to Robbie Burns, wife cheater and poet.  Crumbling yet beautiful, well some of it is. It is recession beaten yet grandiose-closed shops line the ancient high street from which Robbie’s statue looms over. Gothic architecture melds with red brick and utilisation and I feel sorry for the tourists but I hope they go outwards to where all is beautiful. The backdrop looks photo shopped, a set from Narnia, snowy mountains reach forever and the sea glistens faintly and oh so coldly.

And onto Castle Douglas-Islington in the back of beyond.

It is labelled The Food Town. Guardian award stickers are on the doors of delis, which are next to ships selling antiquated nighties ‘with 10% off-short time only.’ I would rather die than wear the nighties in the window. Thermal quilting, nylon and lace are not a good combination. Even in Scotland. They do not appear safe next to a naked flame. I suspect that they would be safe next to any man. Unless the sparks rubbed off. I wonder how much long the short time only is. It all looks rather dusty. That could just be the asbestos from the faded quilted ruby red dressing gown though.

Next door is a portal into organic halloumi, an enormous selection of olives, fennel flavoured crackers and chilli and lemon flavoured everything. I suspect people do not shop at both shops.  A sign outside says ‘New-Slush! As we skid in the grey snow and ice. A newsagent is surprised and confused when asked if he sold Orange mobile vouchers but nearby a shop happily thrives selling occult lite. Wind chimes and nice smelling fake spells and silver necklaces. A charity shop is open selling nighties from the nightie shop but more faded and with the faint suspicion that someone has died in them.

So many pubs have To Let signs; the paper is full of fights yet so many olives are plumply poshly for sale. At under a hundred grand, is a huge beautiful old building in the centre of the high street  -The pub I wanted to buy last time I was here –it has been sold, closed and is for sale again. Possibly cheaper than the sundried tomato stuffed olives.

The high street thrums with accents-posh women with capes and radio four voices walk next to women shouting at their kids in impenetrable (to these southern ears) Scottish accents. Castle Douglas is simplicity and beauty. There is a high street, which sells things. There are streets which run alongside it which are just houses, often of the one story croft variety. There is a huge park leading to a loch. There is an enormous Tesco’s for those who can’t afford the olives and then there is the seemingly untouched land surrounding it reaching into all directions until the enclosing mountains.

Kirkcudbright. This is not an unbiased review. I want to live here. It is the artist’s town as apposed to the food town of Castle Douglas. It is a higgledy-piggledy old town and harbour with a castle, a good castle looming up in the centre, a higgledy piggeldy museum, and little art galleries by the score and huge pasties for 60p. It is all I have ever wanted (cheap heavy cheese and onion pasties that turn a paper bag translucent and glistening within seconds)

It is vaguely famous for being a centre of the arts, (little galleries line the streets) and also for being where The Wicker Man was filmed. I gaze with suspicion at the little side streets in case an animal mask suddenly appears and try to keep my English accent to myself.

The Swimming Pool Charity Shop has displays in its window according to current events. The excellent Wickerman Festival is held nearby and around the time, the display is all tie-dye, hippie and rock, faded denims and headscarves on its ancient mannequins. On Scottish days of importance, the varying shades and lines of unloved tartan can make your eyes steam.  I have come here several times and seen bag pipers in the Town Square, cheerleaders and crowds of hundreds, possibly thousands. The sea lies nearby, the mountains still soar, house prices are affordable but there are few jobs since the dairy closed and there are no trains. One day, though, one day I will live here. If they’ll have me. It quite frankly pisses on every overpriced overcrowded Devonian village where tourists flock to eat yellow congealing scones and cream for four quid and try to ignore the industrial estates. I’m from Devon. I should know. A pasty for under four quid is Nirvana in my book. One for under a quid means I would live anywhere and the magical setting comes as a bonus.

Stranraer-It’s scary. We have travelled down an icy road for miles and miles from Kirkcudbright. It is Christmas day. The view is clichédly beautiful, frosted silver glittering trees, the white calm sea, and the mountains topped white like a Christmas pudding. The few cars skid and slide on the shiny iced deadly road. I think it will be a lovely place to die. Then Stranraer-an isolated yet international port by the sea. It’s hey day is over, grand houses lie desolate yet glorious overlooking the huge ferries to Belfast. The highs and the lows, little hippy fisherman cottage painted in bright pastel colours, bedecked in wind chimes, a one house Toblemory next to a shop which has in its window a grand display of cheap tinned goods so reverently displayed its as if they are gold, frankincense and myrrh.

It’s like stepping back in time.  The cold is so cold it hurts, proper physically hurts. The harbour is slightly frozen over. The sea is frozen and no one bats an eyelid here on the edge of the world. A few pubs are open and the occasional man (its always a man) walks or sways past. No one says hello or merry Christmas.

The Mace shop is open and I get my christmas lunch, some beefy Monster Munch and try to eat them with my frosty gloves delving into the packet and making it all mush. It could be beautiful here. So many shops are boarded up, even Internatiale, the cheapest chain store known to humanity. There are cracked and boarded up windows, cracked windscreens on old cars with flat tires and it’s cold, so cold. But there are tea shops (closed but to be fair it is Christmas day) and lovely cared for houses next to broken houses where people might be hiding within or could just have been simply abandoned and forgotten-its hard to tell and all my concentration is in trying to stay upright in the ice and snow.

I think there is a real community here, a hardened no nonsense community who would not spend four quid on a punnet of olives. I wish them well and respect them. I cannot see Stranrear ever being gentrified. It maybe once was as I look at the crumbling Miss Havershams houses on the hill but I think I shall leave and not beautify it. I think that Stranrear would prefer it that way somehow.

Dec 12 2009


The train station is castellated. Who can resist cheap fake concrete castle especially when you can look up and on the hill, see the real crumbling ancient artefact, somewhat embarrassed as if it has a really rubbish tribute act.

Lancaster is a city that can be whatever you want it to be-it has a veneer of middle class respectability-walking past houses with harps in the window is not uncommon but a house can be purchased in the ‘wrong’ side of town (all of ten minute away from the centre) for about sixty grand-there is an expensive olive stall in town which seems to rub along with the ten lighters for a quid and the nastiest cheapest cards known to humanity stall. Junkies and school kids congregate by the museum steps and shout. I have to avert my eyes from the hog roast stall-the empty eyed pig slowly being shaven of flesh stinks of ammonia.

It’s polar opposite is the Whale Tail in Penny street, a vegetarian café filled with happy /posh/hippy parents dressed in Monsoon or tie-die. Free range children run amok, adverts for mooncups with biro’d exclamations of delight as to their comfort and capacity adorn the rather grotty toilet doors and the menu seldom changes. It is always busy.  But so is the Wetherspoons up the road-elderly men dressed in suits and ties sit still and alone at island like tables with straight backs and ties in front of a pint at 9.30 am.



Architecture wise, Lancaster is mostly Victorian grey and looming with the occasional swing into sixties modernism, eighties wrongness and sudden ancientness. The Job Centre on a cobbled winding street winding down from the castle looks like it is from a BBC adaptation of Jude The Obscure.  The quay is superb, eighteenth century warehouses in various stages of decrepitude line the muddy river Lune and The Millennium Bridge raises lofty prongs to the sky in an eternal two-fingered salute to the purists who hated its modern skeletal design. But it is elegantly tall and ambitious and reminiscent of the great boats that once sailed up here. Of their slave cargo we shall say no more.  One of them, ‘Sambo’ is buried at Sunderland Point, an isolated windswept projectory at the tides mercy-a lonely figurehead such a long way from home battered by cold foreign elements for an eternity seems worse somehow than a quick miserable slide into mud and oblivion. But maybe it makes us just feel uncomfortable to remember.

Lancaster changes, has peaks and troughs, a living city, not one frozen by expectations of tourists or rent asunder by industry. Not anymore anyway. It is a ghost city-people not from it know of it, have vague fond memories-it is not emblazoned on the memory with the majesty of Edinburgh, the Georgian antiquity of Bath, the cloisters of York. An independent shop selling glorious slutty dishevelled clothing for under twenty quid a pop makes me decide I will be very happy in such a place. I move into my spartan new home and bang, the shop is gone, another to let sign in its place.  There are many.  It is local and international due to the university (the university known for excellence and high suicide rate) isolated yet an hour away from about five major cities, the disputed centre of the UK. People dissipate; gather here, some throngs remain the same, transient yet stable. An enigma of a city. And it does not feel like a city. The cathedral pops humbly up a hill on the outskirts that only the locals walk up. It is not a centrepiece. TK Maxx is. Literally.

Lancaster is students who keep to their Yellow Door houses. I always think of Jews and the plague when I see these doors (also a ludicrous open invitation to thieves who can burgle many people at the same time)  and people who get cabs for half a mile to the same few clubs. Like living at home in a small town but minus suspicious parents. Homely but minus home. They do not seem to mix much, keep to their loud circles in pubs and rarely chat to the stranger huddled up in a corner, reading the paper but actually eavesdropping and conjecturing wildly, lambasting, critiquing and bitching. Sorry.

The canal is often mentioned in the Lancaster Guardian as a place to walk along to get accosted by tramps living on ‘our taxes’. I have walked along there on my own to be accosted by tramps concerned about me walking on my own. I can never see how people get so angry about this that they have to write the obligatory letters to the Lancaster Gazette bemoaning and hating the people who sit, drink and chat with their dogs all day as the army planes swoop over, as the media drips with murder, as the property developers flats stay empty whilst their pockets drip with money and as people with money desecrate the town.

And so people sit and write venom filled letters to weekly papers about other people who have no homes.  And also people on bikes and dog shit-both of which appear to have equal footing in local paper’s letters pages-a particular highlight was when someone wrote in to complain not just about the amount of dog shit in the street but the actual size of it along with a published photo showing a large coiled turd and a twenty pence piece which has been carefully placed next to it for scale. I often think about this when receiving change.

‘Luxury’ developments along the same canal have bikes or washing draped on the tiny patio or on spindly fake designer chairs and tables who no one ever ever has brunch or beam gaily at each other over a glass of chardonnay as they do on the faded ads.  The For Sale posters read ‘sexy in the city’ in the same font as ‘sex in the city’ –ironic as the bird has flown in both cases. We are in a recession, it is 2009 and the occasional solitary light twinkles, lonely across the canal from a little box with no neighbours or garden.

An apartment in central Manchester with Philippe Starke taps can be had for £500 a month-an old stone two bed terrace here is around £450 a month. With a garden. There are no hoards of loft space desiring gays with labradoodles in Lancaster or laughing rich blonde friends-they have moved to a real city apartment or a real home.  Lancaster is for children and solidity, sensibility and good common sense. Not so many jobs here you see.  It is a houseboat or a house. I like the houseboats, always so merry and jolly looking with bikes and plants on the roof and a general aura of bygone simple happiness. I could probably stroll past one as someone was being murdered within with a gentle smile and a whimsical gaze.

Williamson Park is the pinnacle of the north. Every time I read a national paper extolling a vague pleasure for something god forbid, out of W1, I look for Williamson park and it makes me angrily evangelical because it is a simply spectacular place. Were it in the South, there would be books about it, Oasis would play a gig in it for BBC2, things would happen. But this is Lancaster where important people don’t live. And thank fuck, neither do Oasis.

But it is a dream. Huge parkland with woods high on a hill overlooking the world, where the Lake District beckons hazily above a blue cold sea, where the Trough of Bowland, a wilderness of moor which makes Dartmoor seem like Soho stretches to infinity reaches out forever in the other direction. Out on top of the world here.

The Williamson Memorial is a beacon on top of this. A white soaring pillion in the middle of the park, stairs and stairs and stairs stretching to a room to which to contemplate the view. Far better a way to remember a life than a dark underground memorial. Surely better to reach to the sky to remember a life once lived than to mourn a worm filled mound. -They do it differently here.  This grief filled monument to a dead love has now become a wedding venue. Ironic and sublime.

There’s more-woods, a huge sundial, big enough to live on, cliffs, grottos, in which plays are performed and bands play in, lakes, a big children’s playground, lawns stretching down with the bay twinkling in the distance and a butterfly park.

Everyone loves this except for me. A hot house of ethereal beauty, you walk in and there are dead tropical butterflies on the floor-you want to tell someone-hello, this is dead, can you get a vet but life and death are side by side, an enormous bat like form can shoot by and you can almost touch it, an exotic flittering presence can drift past and you see its twin shedding powder on the floor as it weakly twitches. Life and death-transient, beautiful and quick and it’s scary, a microcosm of human life. We normally hide death,  gloss it up, use different names for it, lie, but here are pretty butterflies dancing and fluttering and pretty butterflies dead. Children with their innate morbidity love it here.

You brush yourself off and step outside in the sudden cold and see the occasional flittering prisoner who has escaped, a Schrödinger’s cat, free and doomed in the early fatally cold autumnal sunshine.  The bay glistens prettily , the castle looms squat and  protectively over Lancaster, filled with other incarcerated prisoners and memories of death as the moors stretch on and on.

This is the last view the Pendle witches saw and I wonder if the beauty consoled or worsened for them, their fate. And for ‘Sambo’ I think there was never any beauty here.

Click for more pictures of Lancaster

Dec 6 2009

Morecambe in Winter

A busy train. I didn’t expect it and am strangely disappointed. A thin girl punk and discarded copies of Metro.  It’s one of those trains that doesn’t seem like a real modern train-it is dirty velour, nothing slides open and there is a breeze and a drip. I prefer that sort of train somehow. Feel more connected to the outside with such a thin tin layer between outside and me. Then a shudder and we go over a bursting Lune, the nuclear power station highlighted to the left across the marsh, past the council estate and the bewildering array of children’s toys thrown over the embankment and ooh countryside! For almost a minute there are fields and animals until an instant suburbia as bungalows appear with the lurid colours of the TV singing through the midday dusk.

And then Morecambe where no sea can be seen but a Frankie and Bennies in lurid technicolour against its imagined backdrop. And not fitting in with its cheery chilly bobbing balloons and American breeziness.  You are an outsider Frankie and Bennies and you won’t last long. The locals will never forgive you for the parking ticket travesty of your early days-the letters dripping with vitriol, bewilderment and sadness when you charged people to park.  They trusted you, you see. Not again, not for all the bbq steak ribs you can eat-they’d be cheaper down Rita’s café anyway. Not that you can get such things there-but you can get ham, egg and chips, a roll and a cup of tea for 3.99. So who wants your starters and fading balloons and cheery smiles?

It is cold. I walk down the brassy swirly promenade with embossed quotes and riddles and poems from famous writers who I suspect people never actually read.  Maybe lurid Daily Mail headings would keep people moving fascinated further into the mire. And towards the sea.

The view across the bay to Nirvana. White capped mountains across a grey sea, a promise of beauty so near and so far away. A clichéd beauty that doesn’t seem real because it’s so ethereal, magical. Especially when looking at it from Al’s Den.  Eric Morecambe is dancing his merry eternal jig on a plant-bedecked plinth, cafes are offering ever cheapening selections of dead things, fried things, rolls and tea. I wish to buy a wedding cake hotel boarded up and decaying surrounded by bedsits and closed pound shops. It is for sale by auction and will be cheap.  It’s quantity and quality but in the wrong era. Many dreams will have been forged and died in its no doubt once grandiose lobby. But Morecambe is a town of ghosts. Nobody should venture to venture here.

The charity shops are filled with supermarket label clothes at optimistic prices. The ladies in them chat resignedly and /or chirpily about cancer. The Methodist church has a stall in the rain of old lampshades and rubbish.  It is an enthralling place to be.  I go for lunch in the Palatine, a place with pretentions, a cocktail list and papers. The same two old soldiers are talking as were there last week. I eat my excellent pizza with toppings worthy of a trattoria in Roma (capers, olives, spinach, aubergine mozzarella) and have a glass of wine (total seven quid) and listen for the sea over the sound of passing traffic.

B and M bargains is the chain store where famous brands go to die. At pleasing prices. Jamie Oliver’s brand of pesto, olives and pasta are for sale at 49p so I have a happy portent that his chirpy star is on the wane. B and M bargains knew it first.

I don’t go into the Midland but I like it-it is alien yet squats as comfortably as it ever did here-cocktails are £6.95-that’s about four portions of pie’n’ peas at Rita’s café. But it is James Bond in the interior and overlooks the best view known to humanity as the sun sets across the bay and the Lake District Mountains slowly dissipate into the nuclear glow. You can see the Wacky Warehouse from the rear window-a glass of wine here costs more than a bottle there. But there is only one Midland.  And I am scared of the Wacky Warehouse.

The sea whips up and the north wind blows. I see a ginger cat cowering in Morrison’s car park, a place inhospitable to humans, cars reversing and forwarding as random as machinery, where no house can be seen and grey roads stretch to infinity or at least to Heysham. I go to Customer services, my head filled with cats innards strewn across Ford Kias, screaming children, a desperate pensioner searching forever for her lost cat. ‘ Is it the ginger one? He comes around a fair bit-belongs to them estates at the back. Nowt we can do.’

I feel sorry for and angry to the cat. I hope he or she is ok.

In Morrison’s a woman is buying San Pelligro mineral water and I stare at her and am guiltily surprised when she speaks in a Lancashire accent.

I miss the train by one minute and get a bus that wheedles its way around every depressing outcrop of Morecambe for an hour. It is grey; children suddenly run in front of the bus which brakes and an old lady falls over. People say that it is ‘a crying shame.’ A woman listens patiently to and answers every single question her toddler asks. Another woman tells her child that he is ‘driving her up the wall’.  People seem to know each other. A poultry factory blackened by fire is a highlight, almost romantic in it’s gothic intensity as it looms above the single story pre-fabs and the caravan park which stretches into infinity. I know it from Court Watch in the local paper.  I don’t get off.

I start to envy people with cars. A Fiat Uno acquires an almost glamorous aura. Coming into Lancaster is like arriving in LA. The lights, the soaring bridge over the Lune, the old warehouses.

I love Morecambe. I shall go again next week.

Dec 6 2009

Blackpool in December

A cairn of crushed Carling cans shows us where the departed (at Preston) once sat. It is the 10.53 AM. And clichés as if to stalk us, delight in showing as we alight at Blackpool, a teen in a tracksuit. And handcuffs. I feel a certain respect for him to be arrested before midday. He must have got up early. Who says the youth of today are lazy?  I see a sign advertising The Cheeky Girls. Live. Live Live.

A concrete wilderness of signs, (Apollo 2000!) dusty flickering neon tubes and underpasses under a blue December sky. Concrete cancer. Lighters for a pound that say ‘I love dogging’ and ‘Fancy a fuck?’  Tight denim and t-shirts bedecked with Louisa! Tracey! (there are lots of exclamation marks in Blackpool-it is the big gaudy exclamation mark of the North)  I hate hen nights and the matching clothes thing with names! on makes me more angry than it really should.

And talking of ill-fitting garments, my favourite thing about Blackpool is Steals, which ironically considering the name makes shoplifting if not redundant, at least not worth the effort.

A small inoffensive shop tucked away on a random street of desperate cafes (waitress service! boasts one pitifully on a curling faded neon star) is a Nirvana of nylon, a place where mutilated chain store clothes with their labels cut out to mask the shame of being here on this windy north shore are further humiliated by being for sale at ‘everything under five pounds!’

How the mighty have fallen. And at such pleasing prices. I buy sequined dresses with dodgy zips as if buying tins of warped economy beans-a careless glance and a fling onto the dejected boyfriends arms-this is not just any clothes shopping-this is Blackpool shopping. Famous labels (a veteran like me can tell the shop the dress is from by a forensic glance at the colour of remaining threads and size of mark left behind. I try and tell myself this is something to be proud of)

A sales assistant warns me that a dress I have chosen is five quid, the optimum spend in Steals. I say a careless “I know’ like a banker in Mayfair when told the price of a magnum of Krug. I leave this wondrous clothes mortuary with two loaded unnamed bags of last seasons Victorian inspired dresses, a pair of mittens minus a pom pom, some cool woolly flowery tights (‘these are two pounds, that’s why they were hung up-do you still want them”) and some just really stupid stuff that I liked and was a quid. Or didn’t like and was a quid.

Blackpool for it’s gaudy glory seems somehow fragile against the angry drunk snatching Irish sea-all mouth and no trousers like it’s trying to prove it’s not just huddled there, unfashionable and decaying as the water chunders silently around it. Blackpool Radio in the shops report of another reveller swept away, in almost a resigned way and I shudder at the thought of a combination of bravado, rogue waves and WKD.

I think of a mouldy wedding cake when I look at the tumbling white Victoriana and collapsed tile-shedding art deco of abandoned hotels and wind ravaged B and B’s. They still try here-despite the for sale signs and boarded up houses there is a new zig zaggy promenade, it is still busy, there is a terrible ‘rave’ where Blackpool football clubs mascot Bloomfield Bear dances in the street to a bastardised dance track with pastiched lyrics aimed at children–think Bob The Builder but less filled with subtle nuances. People whoop, dance and cheer, making the moves along with the man dressed as a teddy and his pointless hollering cheery sidekicks but I am not sure whether they are actually liking the ambience, being ironic or are just pissed. Or a heady combination of all three. No one comes out of it very well to be fair.

It is not yet 1pm. I feel like Mary Whitehouse because I have a scarf on and am not slaughtered.  To be fair, there are many families, more than I have see here previously, Christmas shoppers with brightly wrapped presents natter outside Accessorise and there is a mulled wine stall and an ice rink across from the Winter Gardens. The Winter Gardens are infused with a sense of glamour previously missing from my sojourn as there is a paparazzi (singular thus paparazzo?) with a long lens pointing at the intricate looming dome. I suspect the aim is not at Phil Cool advertised as tonight’s act, whom the world or at least the tabloids really wants to see and suspicions are confirmed at the realisation that the Royal Variety Show is on Monday.

Lots of people who look famous and rich (possibly due to the fact they have not got ‘Sal’s hen night! December 09!’ screen-printed across their chest) walk in and it’s suddenly all backstage at Glastonbury with wide-necked bouncers, cordoned off areas, VIP bits and girls with glossy hair looking horrified at their surroundings. They will be even more horrified when they learn the Variety Show’s TV scheduling has been changed to midweek so as not to clash with the X-Factor. The local paper, the Blackpool Gazette is very cross about this but also excited about the prospect of Lady Gaga who they talk about in shocked and excited tomes like they are not used to underdressed people behaving badly. Ever.

The Winter Gardens in an antidote to Blackpool. A sticking plaster as apposed to Steals! soothing bandage. That should really be the other way round but I am terribly shallow and love cheap clothes. It is cavernous and frilly, decorative and bedecked in gilt and plaster. Edwardian bling.

I wanted to go up the Blackpool tower but it was fourteen quid per person and could go to Berlin for that so refrained. It looks good though, all towery and err stuff.

The prom is butchered-new tram lines are being put in and it’s a mess, no workman can be seen, maybe they can’t resist the multitudes of cheap cafes and pitchers of neon cocktails for eight quid. The sea swills angrily grey and it scares me. I keep a cautious distance as I feel it would be an unglamorous death to die here. I am in the area to see my boyfriend’s grandma but I feel I might end up ‘reveller swept to death in Blackpool’. My mother would be so embarrassed. It is now 2pm-an acceptable time to really need a double gin.

We go to the Metropole.  A red brick sprawl of a hotel on the sea. Apparently one of the poshest. Probably because they don’t sell pitchers of blue stuff and label it a cocktail. I know this about the blue from bitter experience. Three times.

A glass of wine here is £1.50.  A cup of tea is £1.95. I demand my boyfriend drinks wine instead of his preferred choice of tea. I have a double gin -same price as a panini and I curse my southern ways for being surprised that paninis are sold here, hate myself and talk to a heavily mascared Scottish woman whose accent I can’t penetrate and beam when she tells me her cat has a tumour as I have some sort of time relapse when I can vaguely understand what someone has said about a minute after replying to it with gesture, facial twitches ot speech.  She is also angry about the wine/tea  price discrepancies. We both feel vindicated for choosing alcohol. Happily vindicated.

It is rather splendid inside the Metropole, huge embellished ceilings, plasterwork and general splendidness. My boyfriend comes out and shows me a picture he took of the urinals covered in yellow tape.

Onwards and upwards. As you can see, I have not mentioned the pier and other places that people might have found of interest. That is because I am not on expenses.  Also, I am 31 and winning a giant badly made Tigger is not high on my list of priorities. Possibly about eighth. After a lighter stating how much I love sex. (If only there was somewhere to get one for a reasonable price…)

Reasonable price! I have forgotten to mention B and M bargains! Well I hadn’t forgotten-how could I forget a place that sells Jamie Oliver pesto for 49p? (also see Morecambe review-B and M bargains seems to squat in the misery of forgotten seaside towns and make it all better by having cheap crisps and Ben 10 tattoo kits. They verily should be knighted. )

We get more Jamie Oliver ‘s branded products to span the high and low culture gap and because they are under 50p and some marinated peppers, olives and mushrooms for 30p. It is a smorgasbord of delights and oh my god, the one in Morecambe sold booze but this one sells fags. We welcome you, out new B and M overlord.   A true democracy.

There is an M and S here for the sake of balance. Blackpool is not entirely filled with discount outlets and obscene lighters and there are other posh (ish) chain shops. Though Thornton’s stopped being posh when it stared selling its big bags of misshapes for a quid in Home Bargains. It is however the place that salad forgot-I am on a diet but gave up and had a pasty. It was excellent. I do love Blackpool. I felt dead healthy having only one.

So Blackpool. Go there. I recommend Steals, don’t recommend it for a romantic stay but you’re not an idiot-you know that already. Sorry. But just walk around. It is fascinating. And remember people live there; it is not a living zoo. Just look. Look at what was before, look at the old peeling signs on derelict walls, look at the cavernous lobbies with peeling paint, look at the loftiness of the hotels and look at the sea. The sea remains the same and the sea remains the draw. And just remember.

PS. The Zingy Jamie Oliver pesto jar leaked in boyfriend’s bag. If you see an angry looking fellow smelling of coriander, let me know. You might win the other jar!

For more pictures from today click here